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Police Break Up Armed Robbery That Forced Schools To Shut Down

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Vernon Hills Robbery

Police on the scene after an armed robbery in Vernon Hills that shut down local schools. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 05/12/11 11:52 a.m.

VERNON HILLS, Ill. (CBS) — Police broke up an armed robbery in the north suburbs on Thursday after three men broke into a grocery store and tied up the owner and his wife.

The robbery also placed nearby schools and businesses on lockdown.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports three young men, one of them armed, broke into the La Tienda del Pueblo Mexican grocery store, at 115 E. Town Line Rd. in Vernon Hills, in the Vernon Plaza shopping center, as the owner was opening it for the day around 8:30 a.m. The attackers then forced the man to his floor, and tied up both the man and his wife, who entered the store shortly afterward.

Rosario Herrera says she and her husband, Jose Herrera, were just about to open when three men barged in and locked the door behind them. When robbers tied up her husband, she feared the worst.

Then she heard the front door glass shatter as police forced their way inside.

Rosario was thanking God and police for what she believes is a miracle. 

A customer and another man riding a bicycle saw the robbery unfold and called 911.

At the same time, Vernon Hills Police Officer Sharon Joseph, said: “The U.S. Marshal’s service had been [watching] this crew and it turned into an armed robbery. They were on scene as it occurred.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser Reports

When marshals arrived, the suspects ran out the back door. One was caught right away, but two ran off into a nearby neighborhood. A woman and someone else who was waiting in a vehicle outside the store was also taken into custody.

Police also recovered a weapon. It was not immediately known exactly why the marshals were watching the suspects in the first place.

The lockdown was ordered in the ensuing hour, as police searched for the remaining two offenders. They were caught following a foot search.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, the location of the strip mall is along Illinois Route 60 (Town Line Road), near Aspen Drive in Vernon Hills, according to police.

Schools in the area were placed on lockdown as a precaution.

A notice on Hawthorn School District’s 73 website notified parents that the Hawthorn school campus was closed this morning at the suggestion of Vernon Hills police as a precaution. Outdoor activities such as physical education and walking field trips between buildings were also suspended, the notice said.

The Hawthorn Elementary and Middle schools are just to the north of the crime scene.

Also, the Stevenson High School campus in Lincolnshire was locked down due to the robbery. Classes went on as scheduled, but students were not allowed to leave the school.

A notice from Stevenson principal John Carter said the school was locked down until around 9:55 a.m., when the situation was declared “resolved.”

Westfield Hawthorn Shopping Mall remained open, but its staff said they were aware of the situation and keeping an eye on it.

The staff of the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills also said they received a call from police at 8:30 a.m. instructing them to place the facility on lockdown.

At the time, the suspects were believed to be on library property. Authorities searched a field directly behind the library.

By 9:30 a.m., the library had received a call saying the emergency was over and the facility could be reopened.

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